Plants That Thrive Under a Pine Tree

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Keeping plants alive under a pine tree requires careful selection and care.
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Tired of looking at that bland blanket of pine needles under your pine tree? You can turn this space into a beautiful garden by carefully selecting plants that thrive under a pine tree.

The plants you choose must grow well in full shade and acidic soil. They should also tolerate dry soil conditions because pine tree roots are quite thirsty and will quickly take in available water. The best plants to grow under pine trees will also mature to just a few feet in height unless you plan to prune back the lower branches of your pine tree.

Colorful Blooms Under Pine Trees

If you think full-shade gardens always look gloomy, think again. You can plant colorful flowers under pine trees, including the pale blues of columbine (​Aquilegia​ spp.), Jacob's ladder (​Polemonium caeruleum​) or periwinkle (​Vinca​ spp.). Try lily of the valley (​Convallaria majalis​) for delicate white flowers or a white variety of bleeding heart (​Lamprocapnos spectabilis​).

Foxglove (​Digitalis​ spp.) can prove an attractive purple addition to your pine tree garden as will bergenia (​Bergenia​ spp.). Want something a little sunnier? Orange daylilies (​Hemerocallis fulva​) are surprisingly tolerant of shade, although they may perform best on the edge of the pine tree canopy, where they might get a few rays of sunshine. You can also find yellow bleeding hearts and golden columbine for a splash of summer color in a shade garden.

In addition, the large, showy blooms of hydrangeas (​Hydrangea​ spp.) will bloom blue when planted in acidic soil. Plant several of these flowering shrubs around your pine tree to provide a backdrop for the rest of your garden. Another shrubby plant to consider is azalea (​Rhododendron​ spp.), which comes in a rainbow of colors. You can also plant astilbe (​Astilbe​ spp.), a small, compact shrub that sends up flower spikes in colors like white, wine red or pink.

Quintessential Shade-Loving Plants

Fortunately, many of the tried-and-true shade-loving plants also perform well in acidic soils and don't need too much pampering in terms of water. They also come in an incredible array of colors to suit any creative plan. Hostas (​Funkia​ spp.), for example, can have leaves in virtually any shade of green, as well as variegated green and white leaves. The leaves of coral bells (​Heuchera​ spp.) can be red, yellow, deep purple, green or blue.

Every shade garden needs a few ferns (​Tracheophyta​ spp.), whether they're large and showy or simply fill in open spaces to create a lush garden. Liriope (​Liriope muscari​) also serves well as a "filler" plant in shady areas.

Groundcovers That Thrive Under Pines

If you have a lot of space to cover and just want to plant some groundcovers and call it a day, you have plenty of colors, heights and textures to choose from. For example, sweet woodruff (​Galium odoratum​) grows to about 8 inches tall and produces white flowers, whereas creeping phlox (​Phlox stolonifera​) grows to about half that height and produces a thick carpet of pale purple or pink flowers.

Choosing bugleweed (​Ajuga​ spp.), lamium (​Lamium purpureum​) or wooly thyme (​Thymus serpyllum​) will place the leaves in center stage with a few colorful punctuating flowers in blue or purple. Another groundcover to consider is the bearberry (​Arctostaphylos uva-ursi​), which produces bright-red berries that may attract birds to your garden.

Pachysandra (​Pachysandra terminalis​) is an evergreen groundcover that tends to grow well where other plants fail to thrive — including in acidic soils and full shade. However, it likes moist soil, so you may need to water it often if you choose to plant it under a pine tree. Its star-like rosette leaves provide year-round interest, and it will produce small white flowers in the spring.


Cathy Habas enjoys distilling even the most complicated home improvement tasks into bite-sized pieces. She believes in empowering homeowners one article at a time.

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